• Jack Selcher

Guilt and Righteousness by Association

Pancreatic cancer’s symptoms don’t appear until the disease is very far along. Those afflicted with it initially feel fine, but they’re headed for premature death. Similarly, Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden brought death to mankind. Why do we die because of Adam’s sin?

Paul doesn’t say we die because of our own acts of sin. We die because we’re part of humanity that Adam heads. God’s instructions to Adam were clear: “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17, NIV). Adam did what God told him not to do. His sin opened a dike. It flooded all nations. Paul states that we’ll die because of our connection with Adam. It’s guilt by association. That seems strange. It appears to be unfair to us.

When Adam sinned, we all sinned because he was the human race. We see the principle in Hebrews 7:9–10 (NIV): “One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” Christianity is more than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s more than a Jesus and me thing. It’s also a corporate reality.

It seems unfair that we’re born with a sinful nature and held accountable for the sins that result from what Adam did. It’s guilt by association. We think we don’t deserve that. On the other hand, through faith in Christ Jesus, God credits righteousness to our account. We don’t deserve that either. It’s righteousness by association with Jesus. God both condemned humanity because of what one man did and saved it through what one man did.

Adam ushered into the human race the sin-condemnation-death pattern. Jesus ushered in the righteousness-justification-life pattern. We can’t help being in Adam’s line. We can choose to be in Christ’s line and experience His life.

In Christ we receive more than we lost in Adam—even more than Adam himself had. We don’t deserve it. Paul agrees. He repeats the idea of “gift” or “grace” eight times in verses 15–17.

Adam’s single sin brings condemnation and death to us all. But God’s immense grace hides billions of sins in the crucified, buried, and risen Jesus Christ. It’s both guilt and righteousness by association. Association with Adam is automatic. We must choose to associate with Jesus. Have you?

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Photo: Jesus Christ God - Free image on Pixabay

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